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How Much Does a Satellite Cost? The Surprising Answer!

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artificial satellite orbiting the earth

Developing such a complicated machine from scratch calls for massive resources. That is why only government-related agencies and organizations with deep pockets are capable of getting into the satellite business. But can you own a satellite? Definitely.

According to Eclipse Aviation, the overall price of a satellite is about $1 million each.1 Meanwhile, satellites launched in distant orbits cost around $150–$400 million each.

This price tag is followed by the occasional expenses of maintaining and repairing the satellites. Keep reading for the detailed answer on how much a satellite costs and what other additional costs to anticipate.

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The Importance of Satellites

Satellites are undoubtedly one of the most useful inventions in history. They are an essential tool that is evolving our lives by making our daily life a lot easier to stay connected to the world via GPS (Global Positioning System.)

The GPS, made with a group of more than 20 satellites, has grown to be a vital tool for the government and common residents. Most people depend on this satellite-based navigational system to go about their daily lives, whether predicting traffic patterns or finding their way to a restaurant.

Simply put, a GPS is the modern version of a map, only much easier and faster to navigate. It helps guide you with accurate directions towards your selected location when driving, walking, or biking. Meanwhile, for the government, it proves to be a big help in military affairs. It is a reliable navigational system for them when traveling by air, sea, or land.

Meteorologists are utilizing satellites to predict the climate of a town and even worldwide. Through these satellites, they stay up to date about the results of natural disasters, which include volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, or even simple weather changes.

The importance of satellites mainly stems from the fact that they provide us with a bird’s eye view of the Earth, collecting more data quickly than instruments on the ground. Not only do satellites help us collect data about the Earth, but they help astronomers look beyond, too. They have a better view of space than Earth’s telescopes, which suffer from blocked or muddled views due to clouds, dust, and molecules.

Satellites also help ensure that mountains or tall buildings don’t block TV signals and phone calls, sending them back down to different locations on Earth.

Earth Satellite
Image By: SpaceX-Imagery, Pixabay

How Much Does a Satellite Cost?

There’s no doubt that satellites are expensive, and much of this cost is due to the equipment a satellite must carry. The list of gear includes transponders, computer systems, and high-quality cameras.

According to GlobalCom, a regular weather satellite has a price tag of around $290 million. A spy satellite may cost you an additional $100 million. Despite the risk and costs of building, launching, and running satellites, a few corporations have taken control to develop their own space-tech business.

Boeing is one of these corporations. Its Defense, Space, and Security department supplied 10 satellites in 2012 and collected orders to develop seven more of these, with around $32 billion in revenue in the business unit.

Just like every other technology, the development of satellites continues to evolve through time since the geniuses are still working on advanced models. The higher the tech installed in a satellite, the bigger its price tag and maintenance. Though the costs are high, living without these evolving advancements is now almost impossible for humans.

satellite orbiting the earth
Image By: 12019, Pixabay

Additional Costs to Anticipate

One of the crucial factors to consider while purchasing a satellite is the high cost of launching. Launching a satellite into space can cost you anywhere between $10 million and $400 million, and this amount varies depending upon the satellite used.

Launching a small satellite into a low Earth orbit can cost about $13.5 million. Meanwhile, a larger or heavier satellite needs a great lifting force, so the price increases. Then, after the purchase and launch of your very own satellite, there is also the maintenance cost.

Companies must pay for satellite bandwidth like smartphone owners pay to transmit their voice and data. Those bandwidth prices cost around $1.5 million per year. For example, a small launch of the Pegasus XL rocket can elevate approximately 976 pounds into low-Earth orbit for about $13.5 million, which works out to be $14,000 per pound.

satellite near earth
Image Credit: PIRO4D, Pixabay

How Often Should I Clean a Satellite?

When owning a satellite, you must be familiar with the signal interruptions during storms or rains. But there are also a few other things that mess with the signals; snow, ice, and dust. Although they do not interrupt as much as heavy storms, they highly affect the signal quality.

The storms may pass, but the snow, ice, and dust particles stick until you clean them, making it difficult for the satellite to catch signals. In addition, the wintry conditions can make the cleaning process of your dish a lot more problematic.

It’s best to use extra caution when getting rid of ice or snow since being harsh might mess with the system. Such inconvenience requires proper maintenance, and this is how you can keep the dish in good shape:

  • Avoid using any materials or chemicals that may damage its surface.
  • Keep the dish where it is safest to access; roofs, eaves, and deck edges are some common areas for satellite dishes.
  • Exercise caution when analyzing and cleaning the dish
  • Use a soft-bristle utility brush to clean up any debris
  • Preferable to wash with lukewarm water and mild cleaning soap or window cleaner
  • Wipe and dry with a wet cloth or a sponge used for non-stick pans

These were the safest ways to clean up the satellite dish, but how often should you do this? Practicing this cleaning routine occasionally is not required as satellite dishes are typically constructed to be outside, but it’s best to clean them up now and then.

It’s worth noting that these instructions only apply to satellite dishes that improve TV signals, phone calls, and satellite internet.

Satellite Dish
Image By: Däumling, Pixabay

Insurance Policies for Satellites

There are typically four types of insurance coverages for satellites: Prelaunch insurance, launch insurance, in-orbit insurance, and launch plus life insurance. Overall, insurance for a satellite can cost approximately $415 million. Here’s how each coverage policy protects a satellite:

Pre-Launch Coverage

Prelaunch insurance helps cover all damages during the satellite’s launch, including the satellite’s move from the manufacturer’s premises to the launch site.

Damages can also occur during the satellite’s launch configuration, integration into the launch vehicle, and all launch preparations. However, pre-launch coverage terminates when the satellite’s ownership is passed from the manufacturer to the launcher. Prelaunch insurance policies cover the risk that the launch vehicle fails to operate at launch time.

Launch Coverage

Launch insurance policies for satellites cover material damage and malfunctions that may occur between the beginning of the launch phase and the end of the positioning phase. This coverage lasts until in-orbit testing has been completed.

However, some launch insurance policyholders wish for longer coverage, which is why insurers now offer insurance for up to 365 days after launch. If the satellite’s service life has been curtailed or it’s only partially operational, the insurer assumes a partial loss. Insurers assume constructive total loss if this partial loss causes impairment exceeding a certain limit.

parabolic satellite dish space technology receivers
Image Credit: Wang An Qi, Shutterstock

In-Orbit Coverage

In-orbit insurance policies cover the risk of a satellite’s complete or partial failure during the operating phase, having an agreed value for the insured value, just like launch insurance policies. This amount covers the complete value of the satellite.

Insurers assume constructive total loss if physical destruction or complete inoperability occurs while the satellite is in orbit. In addition, the insurer assumes a partial loss if the satellite’s service life has been curtailed or partially impaired in orbit.

Launch Plus Life Coverage

Launch plus life insurance policies combine launch coverage and in-orbit coverage into one comprehensive policy, making it beneficial for both the insurer and the policyholder. In addition, this insurance policy covers all the risks of material damage and malfunctions that cause a complete or partial failure during every phase of the satellite’s operational life.

Moreover, this insurance policy gives the operator complete certainty in terms of the market price changing restrictions over the satellite’s operational life and coverage restrictions that may be introduced at orbit renewals.

telescope divider 2 Final Thoughts

After reading everything about the costs and procedures of owning a satellite, you’re all set to make that big decision. Whether you choose a larger satellite for distant orbits or a smaller one, make sure that it is reliable, durable, and orbits through its regularly scheduled, dedicated rideshare missions.

Featured Image Credit: SpaceX-Imagery, Pixabay

About the Author Jeff Weishaupt

Jeff is a tech professional by day, writer, and amateur photographer by night. He's had the privilege of leading software teams for startups to the Fortune 100 over the past two decades. He currently works in the data privacy space. Jeff's amateur photography interests started in 2008 when he got his first DSLR camera, the Canon Rebel. Since then, he's taken tens of thousands of photos. His favorite handheld camera these days is his Google Pixel 6 XL. He loves taking photos of nature and his kids. In 2016, he bought his first drone, the Mavic Pro. Taking photos from the air is an amazing perspective, and he loves to take his drone while traveling.